So, your book is finished, you’ve read it and reread it, and your cousin, who works in the reference department down at the public library, has proofed it. The next great contribution to American literature is ready for the publisher, right?

Not so fast.

While you may believe that you’ve worked hard to ensure that a perfect manuscript is ready to ship, you’ve missed one critical step: entrusting your work to a professional editor for thorough, careful editing. Few publishers will consider a book that’s submitted with errors, poorly developed characters, or a plot that maroons its readers on an island of confusion and illogical conclusions.

Experienced editors can help rescue your manuscript and give it the clarity and authority that publishers demand.

We’ve heard the arguments that dismiss editing and editors:

My manuscript is perfect, and, besides, I don’t like being edited. No manuscript is flawless, and no author wants to be embarrassed by a poorly composed effort. On a recent project, we still were finding opportunities to improve an author’s manuscript on our sixth and seventh readings. Whether you’re a novice or an established author, you need an editor. And, heck, it’s a chance to make new friends and allies.

It’s too expensive. Actually, it’s likely the smartest money you’ll spend along the way to seeing your book accepted by a publisher. Sure, editing can be pricey, but check around. There are editors out there who are well within your budget.

I don’t need an editor, I’m self-publishing. Makes no difference. Errors are errors. Whether they make their way into an electronic format or a traditional format, your readers will question your credibility and your authority.

I’m afraid an editor will overwhelm my voice. The book belongs to the author, said Maxwell Perkins, editor of Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe. Good editors work closely their authors to craft a cohesive, logical, well-defined manuscript that they can offer a publisher with confidence. The last thing a caring, knowledgeable editor will do is substitute her or his voice for yours.

Bottom line: Find an editor and develop a partnership. It may be the best investment you make for that American masterpiece.

Fran Allred and Mickey Johnson are the owners of We Edit Books, based in Huntington. They have a combined 65 years’ experience as newspaper and book editors in West Virginia and across the South and Midwest. They can be reached at and [email protected].

(This blog post first appeared as one of our columns in Mountain Whispers, the bi-monthly newsletter of West Virginia Writers.)